4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT: MARY’S LEGACY OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
The story of the Blessed Mother is part of the incarnation story, a movement that has its meaning in the salvation of mankind. I will invite you to pay close attention to the sequence of events that takes place here: “In a loud voice,
she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Lk. 1:42-45). These are the words of Elizabeth upon hearing Mary’s greetings. Mary and Elizabeth epitomize what a holy relationship is about. Blessedness, favor, grace, commitment, faith, obedience to God’s will are all embodied in that encounter, plus the excitement that is felt by the unborn.
Let’s look at the legacy of love in this visit of the Blessed Mother from two perspectives: Mary moved into service because she is totally conformed to the image of Christ’s love. First, I will invite not just mothers but all of us to start by asking ourselves what legacies we are leaving behind today. Mary receives two messages at the time of the annunciation by the angel. The first part informs her that she would be the mother of the expected messiah, a mission made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. The second part notifies her that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant at her old age which prompts Mary’s visit as read in the gospel today. Both of those messages are connected because they hinge on the incarnation, “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). Mary’s submission to the will of God is clear by her action as she “traveled to the hill country in haste.” She gives of herself to serve Elizabeth out of love.
Why is Mary’s visit to Elizabeth special? The answer is because it is a visit from the mother of Christ the Emmanuel. For this Elizabeth declares, “And how does this happen that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Imagine the humility which Mary exudes. Exegetes report that the distance between Mary’s Nazareth and Judea where Elizabeth resided was reasonably far and that it involved great risks. Criminals and bandits lurk in the area, but the Blessed Mother does not count any of that. She does not bother about her elevated status, rather conveys the practicality of commitment. Mary trusts completely in God. The Letter to the Hebrews says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” How does our relationship with Christ change and inform our spirit of service? Here is the true Christmas story in Mary’s action, visiting those in need and serving those whose lives would be transformed by our presence. This surpasses any form of gift cards or material presence. The true Christmas story is making Christ present by our actions. How do you plan to tell your Christmas story? What would you do to bring Jesus to those around you?
Let’s think also about the power of friendship as portrayed in the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. Mary endures all the risks, walks several miles to get to Elizabeth. She knows how much Elizabeth would use her help. The strength of this friendship comes from Christ. If I may ask you, what is the motive for your friendship? Elizabeth says, “Who am I that the mother of my savior should come to visit me?” She sees Christ in the Blessed Mother. We must note that authentic friendship has its foundation in God, one that is open to share in both joys and sorrows for the sake of Christ. Friendship must be based on holiness for it to thrive. Then it can be willing to take risks. Mary goes to Judea to build Elizabeth up. Mary is other-centered, willing to help, to give of herself, to provide motivation, and encouragement. How about you? Are you a friend who builds your friends up? This makes us wonder what friendships look like today, ask yourself what type of friend you are.
The rough road from Nazareth to Judea is scary, yet Mary walks through it to be with Elizabeth. A lot of people find themselves alone, isolated, and anxious, without anyone to come to them. Those scary paths of life remind us that we need someone; when we lose jobs, when we encounter family challenges, when we struggle with anxiety, when we experience marital issues, or when we are aging. Think about the elderly who have no one to care for them. Everyone needs some friends. There are moments when it just seems like we are out in the cold. Can we find a friend like Mary, “one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out?”
The theme of the Family Apostolate Magazine, 2021, Christmas edition is, “The Joy of Friendship.” One of the articles that I find inspiring in the magazine is written by a teenage boy, Andrew Sybert. The title is, “Faithful Friend”. Here’s what Andrew says, “To find faithful friends, we have to be one first, like God is to us.” That is what Mary does with Elizabeth. The Blessed Mother finds great friendship in God, chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. Then, she in turn takes this friendship to Elizabeth, connects her and her son to Jesus. No wonder Elizabeth goes into such a frenzy saying, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk. 1:44). The incarnation of Christ is the story of God’s love and friendship with humanity, hence, “the Word was made flesh dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
As we prepare for Christmas, we might need to discover just what we can do to be that friend for someone who really needs us. Some people might be lonely, forgotten, abandoned, and helpless. Can you be that friend at this time? The real love story is the story of Jesus’ presence to others. The Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us a great lesson. God places us in people’s lives to bring joy and excitement, so, let us discover what God is asking of us. Be that friend who brings joy to someone who needs your friendship.
Take-home for the week: How can you be that friend who brings joy to someone at this period? Can you discover a way to bring excitement to someone who ordinarily would not be expecting you?
Readings: 1st- 5:1-4; 2nd- Heb. 10:5-10; Lk. 1:39-45